MISSOULA — Sayeed Pridgett vividly remembers the last time Montana played Stanford.
The date was Nov. 29, 2017 and the guard was just a sophomore coming off the bench at the time. Montana led 50-44 on the road with under 10 minutes left, but the Grizzlies were held without a basket for over six and a half minutes down the stretch.
Stanford, who the Grizzlies open their season with on the road Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (MT), ended up winning the late November contest by 16 points.
“We had a chance of winning that game,” Pridgett said. “Just knowing that, it gives us a lot more energy and confidence in the game because we know we had a chance to win.”
Much of Montana’s 2017-18 roster is, of course, graduated at this point. Only three players currently on the team were with the Grizzlies that season — Pridgett, Peter Jones, and Timmy Falls — while four players on the Cardinal basketball squad were on Stanford’s 2017-18 team.
Stanford’s team is fairly young and nine players are underclassmen. The Cardinal’s recruiting class is touted and there is talent on head coach Jerod Haase’s squad, though the team has underperformed as of late and went 15-16 (8-10 Pac-12) last season.
Cardinal junior forward Oscar da Silva and star guard Daejon Davis combined for 58 minutes the last time the two teams squared off. Their college basketball careers have taken off in the years since.
Davis, also a junior, has become one of the best point guards in the Pac-12 and set the Stanford record for assists by a freshman in a season, with 160. He dished out 114 last year while shooting 43.6 percent from the field and averaged 11.4 points per game.
“Daejon Davis is a big key factor for us and we’re definitely keying in on him,” Pridgett said. “Just making sure I know everything they do and honestly just watching film from the last time we played those guys, just making sure I keep getting familiar with their faces and their tendencies.”
A 6-foot-9 forward from Germany, da Silva has started 42 games through two seasons with Stanford, averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks for his career. A strong three-point shooter as well, da Silva shoots a touch over 35 percent from behind the arc.
“They’re two good players and that’s what happens when you play the Pac-12,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “You’re going to play guys that are NBA players, borderline NBA players, but definitely professionals on rosters and it’s a high level, so for us we just have to play the best basketball we can play.
“Those are two guys that are going to be very difficult to guard.”
Pridgett, of course, will be the focal point for the Grizzlies. A preseason all-conference honoree, the senior started all 35 games for Montana last year and averaged 29.6 minutes per game while scoring a team-high 528 points.
Pridgett is the lone starter to return for the Montana, though it does bring back six lettermen, including Kendal Manuel, Timmy Falls and Mack Anderson.
Falls started eight games and played in 33, while Manuel played in all 35 and started once. Anderson played in 28 as a true freshman.
Manuel was one of the most important players off the bench for Montana last season, as he scored 8.7 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting and hit 57 of 135 3-point tries. It seems likely he will move into a starting role this year.
Anderson seems massively improved after playing 239 minutes last season and impressed during the Maroon-Silver scrimmage. Falls was injured during the preseason, but is back practicing and expected to be available on Wednesday.
Josh Vazquez, Eddy Egun and Derrick Carter-Hollinger are some other names to watch for Montana fans. Rocky Mountain College transfer Jared Samuelson is still dealing with a leg injury and likely will not be available.
Montana last beat Stanford in Dahlberg Arena during the 2005-06 season and is 2-4 all-time against the Cardinal. The Grizzlies other win came during the 2003-04 season and the team’s first met in 1930.
While there is history — some even recent — an opener on the road against a high-level opponent will be a tough test to start the season for Montana.
“We’re just going to have to hit the ground running, throw the ball up and go play,” DeCuire said. “It’ll be like some of these scrimmages, you just don’t have any information.”